What Would George Washington Do?

General Washington at the Battle of Princeton, 1777.

What should we expect of our next president? What is the defining crisis of our times? It would help if we had a History of the Twenty-first Century, but that won’t be available for many years to come.

The remarkable thing about great statesmen is that, as though by intuitive grasp of the relative importance of things, they seem to see the present in the clear light of the future. Churchill, in the political wilderness, saw the monstrous threat of Nazism long before his more respectable contemporaries did. It was not a recent insight that he shared in his “Their Finest Hour” speech when he cast the coming Battle of Britain as a contest for “the survival of Christian civilization” and “the abyss of a new Dark Age.”

When we look for a presidential candidate, we are looking for a statesman.

Mitch Daniels says the great crisis is financial. There is a strong case to be made for this. But statesmen are also able to read and lead the public. Daniels stumbled in this. Last year, he told Andy Ferguson of the Weekly Standard that the next president would have to call a truce on social issues to focus on our nation’s more immediate and existential crisis of crippling debt. “It is just a suggestion I made once,” he told World reporter Edward Lee Pitts. Both Pitts and Ferguson demonstrate that Daniels is pro-life to his bones. Ferguson quotes Curt Smith, head of the Indiana Family Institute, saying, “He has a deep faith, he’s totally pro-life, and he walks the talk.” Perhaps it was just a stumble. Perhaps he is a great man, and not the bean counter he appeared to be at that moment.

Newt Gingrich tells us that Islam will swallow us if we do not rally against it. This could be true, and rally we must. But in America, unlike Europe which has already committed moral and demographic suicide, we still have a backbone to stiffen, and our uniquely free society encourages Muslim Americans to moderate and assimilate. As for Newt, he is not a great man. He is strong on insight and analysis, but profoundly deficient in character. No man as morally hollow as Newt Gingrich should be President. We suffered that from 1992-2000. Newt is the Bill Clinton of the right.

In yesterday’s Worldmag column, I make my case that abortion and the disintegration of the family are the great moral crises that threaten to destroy the nation (“Facing the Crisis of Our Times“).

As for abortion in particular, not only does it present serious demographic and workforce challenges, it is a moral blight that invites God’s righteous judgment.
 
We need to repent of our evil, return to the Lord, and reform our ways. George Washington saw the flourishing of our nation as inseparable from our national repentance before God’s righteous majesty and from our trust above all in the strength of his arm on our behalf. He wrote at time when the Lord’s government of the nations was commonly recognized and with a clear political conscience for doing so.

In his General Orders of March 6, 1776, as Commander of the Continental Army, General Washington declared, “a day of fasting, prayer, and humiliation to implore the Lord, the Giver of all victory, to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness’s (sic.), and that it would please him to bless the Continental Arms, with his divine favor and protection.” (I thank Dr. Peter Lillback for sending me this reference.)

David C. Innes is associate professor of politics at The King’s College in New York City, and the co-author of the forthcoming book, Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media).

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